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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Quality of reports of investigations of research integrity by academic institutions (Papers: Andrew Grey, et al | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on January 27, 2020
 

Abstract
Background
Academic institutions play important roles in protecting and preserving research integrity. Concerns have been expressed about the objectivity, adequacy and transparency of institutional investigations of potentially compromised research integrity. We assessed the reports provided to us of investigations by three academic institutions of a large body of overlapping research with potentially compromised integrity.

Methods
In 2017, we raised concerns with four academic institutions about the integrity of > 200 publications co-authored by an overlapping set of researchers. Each institution initiated an investigation. By November 2018, three had reported to us the results of their investigations, but only one report was publicly available. Two investigators independently assessed each available report using a published 26-item checklist designed to determine the quality and adequacy of institutional investigations of research integrity. Each assessor recorded additional comments ad hoc.

Results
Concerns raised with the institutions were overlapping, wide-ranging and included those which were both general and publication-specific. The number of potentially affected publications at individual institutions ranged from 34 to 200. The duration of investigation by the three institutions which provided reports was 8–17 months. These investigations covered 14%, 15% and 77%, respectively, of potentially affected publications. Between-assessor agreement using the quality checklist was 0.68, 0.72 and 0.65 for each report. Only 4/78 individual checklist items were addressed adequately: a further 14 could not be assessed. Each report was graded inadequate overall. Reports failed to address publication-specific concerns and focussed more strongly on determining research misconduct than evaluating the integrity of publications.

Conclusions
Our analyses identify important deficiencies in the quality and reporting of institutional investigation of concerns about the integrity of a large body of research reported by an overlapping set of researchers. They reinforce disquiet about the ability of institutions to rigorously and objectively oversee integrity of research conducted by their own employees.

Keywords

Research Integrity, Institution, Misconduct, Investigation

Grey, A., Bolland, M., Gamble, Avenell, A. (2019) Quality of reports of investigations of research integrity by academic institutions. Research Integrity and Peer Review 4(3). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41073-019-0062-x
Publisher (Open Access): https://researchintegrityjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41073-019-0062-x

Meta-analysis study indicates we publish more positive results – ARS Technica (John Timmer | December 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on January 13, 2020
 

Meta-analyses will only produce more reliable results if the studies are good.

While science as a whole has produced remarkably reliable answers to a lot of questions, it does so despite the fact that any individual study may not be reliable. Issues like small errors on the part of researchers, unidentified problems with materials or equipment, or the tendency to publish positive answers can alter the results of a single paper. But collectively, through multiple studies, science as a whole inches towards an understanding of the underlying reality.

Similar findings have been found before, but it’s important to rearticulate the value of negative results to science and practice.  This speaks to poor research culture and training. University education, and even high and primary school, do not acknowledge that failure is part of discovery. The rewards for ‘success’ are high and it is very tempting for students that can lead to research misconduct.

A meta-analysis is a way to formalize that process. It takes the results of multiple studies and combines them, increasing the statistical power of the analysis. This may cause exciting results seen in a few small studies to vanish into statistical noise, or it can tease out a weak effect that’s completely lost in more limited studies.
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But a meta-analysis only works its magic if the underlying data is solid. And a new study that looks at multiple meta-analyses (a meta-meta-analysis?) suggests that one of those factors—our tendency to publish results that support hypotheses—is making the underlying data less solid than we like.

Publication bias

It’s possible for publication bias to be a form of research misconduct. If a researcher is convinced of their hypothesis, they might actively avoid publishing any results that would undercut their own ideas. But there’s plenty of other ways for publication bias to set in. Researchers who find a weak effect might hold off on publishing in the hope that further research would be more convincing. Journals also have a tendency to favor publishing positive results—one where a hypothesis is confirmed—and avoid publishing studies that don’t see any effect at all. Researchers, being aware of this, might adjust the publications they submit accordingly.

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Russian journals retract more than 800 papers after ‘bombshell’ investigation – Science (Dalmeet Singh Chawla | January 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on January 11, 2020
 

Academic journals in Russia are retracting more than 800 papers following a probe into unethical publication practices by a commission appointed by the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). The moves come in the wake of several other queries suggesting the vast Russian scientific literature is riddled with plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and so-called gift authorship, in which academics become a co-author without having contributed any work.

The RAS commission’s preliminary report documenting the problems and journals’ responses to them is “a bombshell,” says Gerson Sher, a former staffer at the U.S. National Science Foundation and the author of a recent book on U.S.-Russia science cooperation. The report, released yesterday, “will reinforce the suspicions and fears of many—that their country is not going down the right path in science and that it’s damaging its own reputation,” says Sher, who applauds RAS for commissioning the investigation.
Russia’s roughly 6000 academic journals, the vast majority published in Russian, are popular among the country’s academics. A 2019 study found that Russian authors publish far more in domestic journals than, for instance, their counterparts in Poland, Germany, or Indonesia. But standards are often low. In March 2018, for instance, Dissernet, a network aimed at cleaning up the Russian literature, identified more than 4000 cases of plagiarism and questionable authorship among 150,000 papers in about 1500 journals.
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(Queensland, Australia) Ex-judge to investigate controversial marine research – Times Higher Education (John Ross | January 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on January 11, 2020
 

An Australian university has launched an investigation into the research record of a discredited scientist it educated, as findings by academics who supervised her doctoral training are challenged.

James Cook University said it has appointed an external panel to look for evidence of misconduct in the research conducted by marine biologist Oona Lönnstedt between 2010 and 2014, when she was undertaking PhD studies at the Queensland institution.

The university said the panel’s as yet unidentified members include “eminent academics with expertise in field work, marine science and ethics” and a former federal court judge.

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